weekly roundup – January 15th

One of the best things I saw this week was Jerry Seinfeld and President Obama in Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Both of these men are personable, and I enjoyed their conversation. Having Obama open up about what it means to have power is interesting, and his advice to the candidates about making sure they’re running for the right reasons (or rather, not running for the wrong reasons) made me think about the reasons behind the choices I’ve made in my own life.

In law school, we learned about arbitration, but there wasn’t a big emphasis on it. It was something that was relegated to consumer contracts, but even there, it wasn’t used by all of the companies. In the last few years, however, arbitration clauses have popped up all over the place, and the Supreme Court has upheld even the most extreme of them. This article does a good job of explaining the rise of arbitration clauses and the influence the Chief Justice had in creating the winning argument while he was practicing law. I’m not a proponent of arbitration. My arguments against it are nothing new, but I am particularly against it in employment contracts. Cerner gave its employees an ultimatum late last year: sign an arbitration contract or lose the ability to get merit raises. It prohibits class action suits, which can be effective to change corrupt or improper practices by companies. And it’s just unfair. The way that our country and justice system seem to be run by companies rather than people really gets to me.

A New York Times Magazine article addresses the Russian media trolls who put out pro-Russia articles and comments that disparage, well, anyone who criticizes Putin or Russia (or looks too hard at the trolls themselves). It’s an interesting bit of investigative journalism that culminates in the journalist himself being trolled.

Another article about the dark side of technology is this article about the Silk Road and its founder. It’s a long, two-part read, but it goes through the founding, running, and downfall of the Silk Road and the efforts law enforcement made to try and shut it down. In the end, it’s a pretty classic case of getting too big for one’s britches. Ross Ulbricht, the mastermind, became arrogant and a little careless, which was enough for law enforcement to get a toehold. There are so many examples of this extreme hubris, and the article was in part fascination with a dark world and part schadenfreude at seeing the end result.

I didn’t play any games this week, but I’m going to a board game convention this weekend, so I’ll have lots to report next week!

Personal thoughts: I’ve been applying for jobs, which is somewhat disheartening. I’m educated, curious, driven, and eager to work, but I think my JD scares off potential employers who think I’m going to expect a lawyer’s salary while not doing legal work or who think that I’m not right for a software job. It’s frustrating. But I’ve come to realize that majoring in math in addition to music was one of the best decisions I could have made in college. I wanted to graduate with more than a degree in music (I knew I didn’t want to do music professionally), and I enjoyed math and was pretty good at it. It turns out that a lot of software jobs require a technical degree or a math degree, so yay! Trying to figure out my future (career-wise) makes me feel so young and inexperienced again, but it’s essential.

When I Die…

This may be a little macabre, but I’ve been thinking about what I want things to be like when I die. I closed my law firm officially last week. I just wasn’t happy practicing law, and I realized that when I’m on my deathbed, I don’t want to think that I should have changed jobs fifty years ago. And that’s what I would think if I continued in law, or at least in practicing law. So I’ve closed up shop and am spending some time being a housewife. I don’t think I will regret this.

Thinking about being on my deathbed got me thinking about other areas of my life as well. Carl and I talked about things, and we agreed that, if one of us were to die suddenly, we don’t want either of us to feel that we should have said more or shown more love. And I know that, if one of us died today, I would know that I had shown him love and been shown so much love. I also don’t want to feel like I didn’t really LIVE. And by this, I don’t mean bungee jumping or swimming with sharks or opening a bar on a beach in Costa Rica. I mean being present. Being present to experience the beauty and the sorrow that life provides. This means everything from playing with my dogs and gardening to spending time with friends and family to traveling to reading a book and watching TV (because yes, watching some TV can contribute to my happiness). I’ve known someone who disconnected and chose not to be present and experience the hurts and the joys, and it caused a lot of pain for many people. I will be present though. I will try not to regret broken relationships or missed opportunities. I may not love life every day, but I will appreciate it and know that experiencing it is what makes everything worth it. Embracing the pain and the sadness so that celebrating joy and love is even more brilliant.

That got really sappy, didn’t it? I’m in a bit of a sentimental and contemplative mood…

choosing a name

I’m sure at least some of you are wondering why I chose the name “Vesta Legal” for my firm. First, a lot of lawyers use their names as their firm names, something which I believe is rooted in ethical rules. The rules have changed though, and a law firm can choose different names. I thought my name was too complex and hard to remember to be effective as a branding technique. And it would just be clumsy: “The Law Offices of Rachel Kibler-Melby” – ugh. I like my name generally, but as a brand, it’s not so great. So the next step was finding a phrase or name that I liked. I have always had an interest in mythology, so I thought that would be a good place to start. I searched for gods or goddesses with connections to wills, and I had a hard time finding anything. Then I thought having the goddess of the home would be a good bridge to estate planning, my primary area of practice. I’m more familiar with Greek mythology, so I first tossed around “Hestia,” protector of the hearth. But I didn’t like the sound of it. I went to Roman mythology, where “Vesta” is the goddess of hearth and home. I liked the sound of her name, and to my delight, I discovered that the Romans actually deposited their wills with the priestesses of Vesta, the Vestal Virgins. It seemed perfect. I searched the name and “law,” and a Swiss law firm came up, so “Vesta Law” was out. There also appears to be a town in West Virginia called “Vesta,” though strangely, no one had used it in their law firm name. So then it was just a matter of figuring out what I liked, and “Vesta Legal” won out among the various “law firm,” “law office,” “legal services,” and other variations.

If you’re thinking about a name for a law firm, I would encourage you to not use your own name. Having a brand name is frequently easier to remember, and a bonus is that it allows room for growth. If I take on a partner or hire an associate or whatever, I don’t have to worry about changing the name. It also gives no indication as to the size of my firm (thus breaking no ethical rules by stating it is bigger than it is), which can sometimes give more credibility.

So that’s how I came to name my firm what I did. I’m happy with it – I think it sounds elegant, and I like the background of it.

new firm!

As my dear husband pointed out, I haven’t updated this since I was studying for the Missouri bar. In the past three years, I have taken (and passed) three bar exams – Missouri, Illinois, and Kansas – worked for two different firms – one doing civil defense litigation (asbestos) and one doing data privacy and records management consulting – and have recently started my own firm! I’m doing estate planning, and I hope to do asylum work on a pro bono basis. I’ll write a few posts on what I did to start my own firm, but I wanted to get a post out. Hooray for a new firm!

another long absence

I’m sure you’ve all been dying to know what I’ve been doing for the last six months, so here’s the update. I left my job and started my own firm, so that’s cool. I’m doing estate planning, though right now, I’m doing pretty much anything. In February, I started a bunch of seeds, and this year, I decided to do better than last year, where all my seedlings either died or ended up really leggy. I got a grow light and some heating pads, and we set up a table in the basement as my grow station. I know what it sounds like, but I promise it’s legit. I’ve planted 5 types of lettuce, spinach (which didn’t germinate, oddly), 5 types of carrots, kohlrabi, arugula, lots of different pepper, dill, parsley, cilantro, basil (a bunch of different kinds), mustard, chives, eggplant (including an African variety – yum), lots of tomatoes, thyme, little strawberries, cucumber, a few different squashes, and other things. I’m SO excited. Some of them have made it into the garden, but a lot of things are still waiting downstairs. I’ve been surprised at how much water they need, but considering the light and the heating pads, I guess I shouldn’t be. Outside, everything seems to be doing really well. Our grapes and (female) kiwi came back (we got a new male kiwi yesterday), the agastache is really happy, we’ve had asparagus, coming up, the raspberries and blueberries are turning into something recognizable, my herb boxes are doing well, and the strawberry patch is blooming. We built another raised bed and planted a bunch of flowers in it. I think Carl is going to build me a basil box to add on to the raised bed. That will be exciting.

I’ve been baking quite a bit as well. I made eggplant parmesan a few weeks ago, which was delicious. And I still make my sourdough bread about once every other week. I’ve progressed to adding rosemary and olive oil or cheese to it. I want to try adding lemon thyme to it as well. I think I’m going to make a double chocolate crumb cake this week, so I’ll keep you all updated.

I have the best husband ever, the dogs are great, and I have independence in my career. Things are going well!